Schoolchildren in Pakistan
LONDON - Arabstoday
The author of "Three Cups of Tea," Greg Mortenson who wrote an inspiring account of building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan is fighting for his reputation. 'Three Cups of Tea' author 'to be sued': A director at a Pakistani think-tank said Thursday he is to sue US author Greg Mortensen over alleged inaccuracies in the follow-up to his best-selling book, "Three Cups of Tea".
Mansur Khan Masoud is to take action over a picture in the "Stones into Schools" sequel which implies he was involved in the 1996 kidnapping of the humanitarian writer in the South Waziristan region of Pakistan. Khan told broadcaster BBC he was "hurt" to find the picture's caption naming him as one of the kidnap team.
Mortensen's original hit described how the author was inspired to build a school in northern Pakistan after locals looked after him when he got lost while trekking in the area. The former mountaineer, who is the founder and executive director of the Central Asia Institute (CAI), detailed how he was kidnapped by tribesmen, but only named his alleged abductors in the sequel. "I am just looking at the situation to see how to approach the court and what plea to take," Khan told the BBC in Islamabad, Pakistan. Khan claimed his family had looked after the tourist, as is tribal custom in the region. Mortenson's book has sold more than four million copies and become required reading at the Pentagon, which sees the attempt to bring education to remote communities, especially for girls, as part of the counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan. But an investigative report on CBS News' programme "60 Minutes" late Sunday said many of the schools supposedly run by Mortenson's charity had never opened and suggested that the author's main goal appeared to be personal enrichment. A Pakistani man who features in the book promised Monday to sue Mortenson, while the publisher, Viking, was wondering if it had become the latest victim of an embarrassing slew of memoires that turn out to be less than totally true
The author and moluntaineer twice nominated for the Nobel Pieace Prize riposted in a series of statements defending both his book and his charity, the Central Asia Institute (CAI). "I stand by the information conveyed in my book," he wrote in a statement, "and by the value of CAI's work in empowering local communities to build and operate schools that have educated more than 60,000 students."
The "60 Minutes" report questions both the veracity of the story of how Mortenson became involved with Pakistan and Afghanistan and the accomplishments of the CAI since then. in "Three Cups of Tea," Mortenson tells the stirring story of how he was rescued and nursed to health in the remote Pakistani village of Korphe after a failed climb in 1993 of the mountain K2. He writes it was then, as he recovered, that he first promised villagers to come back and build a school -- a decision that gave birth to his now famous campaign across the region.
CBS called it the "powerful and heart-warming tale that has motivated millions of people to buy his book and contribute nearly $60 million to his charity." But it was a lie, according to another best-selling author and mountaineer, Jon Krakauer. He told CBS that after heavily backing Mortenson he'd discovered that the Korphe incident had never happened, saying: "Greg never heard of Korphe till a year later."
Another dramatic incident allegedly invented in the memoir was Mortenson's 1996 kidnapping by the Taliban. In his book and in the follow-up "Stones into Schools" he claims to have befriended them and won release.
But CBS said the men Mortenson identified as Taliban kidnappers had in fact been assigned to protect the American while he traveled in the dangerous Waziristan area on the Afghan-Pakistani border. One of them, Mansur Khan a respected academic in Pakistan told CBS that the account was "totally false and he is lying. He was not kidnapped." Mahsud told CNN he plans a lawsuit. "Mortenson has defamed me, my family and my tribe," Mahsud said in the interview.Asked by CBS why Mortenson might have written lies, Mahsud said: "to sell his book."
More serious are allegations of financial mismanagement at the charity and accusations that many of the schools listed as having been built are also fictitious.In 2009, the Central Asia Institute said it ran 54 schools in the Af-Pak region, with 28,475 pupils, most of them girls. However, "60 Minutes" said it went to about half of those schools and that of these half were deserted, or operating without links to Mortenson.
In a statement to The New York Times, Mortenson's assistant Jeff McMillan said there were simply schools where the charity only paid for teachers, while in others it paid for construction and that CBS had failed to explain this.
McMillan also said that CBS may have found empty schools because the Afghan school year began on March 23. "I don't know when CBS was there, but if it was when school was out, the schools would appear to be empty," he said.
The president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a watchdog, told CBS that Mortenson was using charity funds to travel on lengthy speaking tours, where he signs and sells his books to enthusiastic audiences.According to the report, the charity lists $1.7 million in "book-related expenses" but receives none of the proceeds from the book sales.
"Sounds like a book tour to me," the institute president, Daniel Borochoff, said.
In a response emailed to supporters, the Central Asia Institute said that the books were "integral to accomplishing our mission" because they raise awareness among Americans of Afghanistan's problems."Contributions from individuals who are inspired by 'Three Cups of Tea' and 'Stones into Schools' far exceed CAI's book-related expenditures."The statement also said that Mortenson had personally contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars from his book profits.